Intel’s Haswell ‘North Cape’ prototype can switch screen size in tablet mode

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Back at CES in January, we only caught a glimpse of Intel’s Haswell-running tablet-laptop hybrid prototype. There weren’t very many details on how this so-called “North Cape” device works, but at Intel’s Innovation Future Showcase in London this week, Engadget got a closer look, helping us fill in the blanks on this prototype and hint at what we can expect in future devices.

One of North Cape’s most interesting features is “Smart Frame,” which, depending on how you use your device, basically resizes its 13.3-inch display’s viewable area on the fly but without changing its physical dimensions. After all, a wider bezel around the display makes it more grip-friendly in tablet mode, but you’d want as big of a screen as possible when you’re trying to navigate Windows 8’s side-scrolling home screen in laptop mode.

When you detach North Cape from its keyboard dock, Smart Frame is able to shrink the 13.3-inch screen’s bezel and decrease its viewable area down to 11.6 inches (disabling touch controls around the screen). When you dock the screen to the keyboard, the bezel almost disappears to give you as much screen real estate as possible on a 13.3-inch display. According to Geek.com, Intel is able to do this by adding a virtual bezel around the screen that can morph between tablet and laptop modes.

In addition, North Cape makes it easier to undock the screen from its keyboard dock by putting an unlock button along the top of the display. Current tablet-laptop hybrid designs typically place the unlock button in the middle of the dock, so you need to use two-hands to both unlock and catch the screen in case it falls. From what Engadget could see, North Cape has one button on top of the screen, which activates an electric latch when pressed to make it possible to unlock the two parts with one-hand. 

The Haswell processor is supposed to offer better battery life than the current generation of Intel Core chips, with the company touting a high of 13 hours at its CES press conference back in January. Based on what Engadget was shown in London, it looks like a Haswell-powered tablet should be good for 10 hours between charges  – and that’s without taking into account the extra battery life offered by the keyboard dock.

We expect features like the Smart Frame, new unlock button, and 10-plus-hour battery life to be a part of the new line of Haswell hybrids due to launch in a couple of months. Which feature are you most looking forward to in Haswell-powered devices?

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